Thursday, February 04, 2021

The Wounds We Carry


                                                                  (Lake Erie, Monroe)

Linda and I are currently reading two books together. One is The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All You Relationships, by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. Very good!

The second book is Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. (I will preach on "The Meaning of Marriage" at Redeemer, on Feb. 28.) Excellent!

Today Linda wanted to read a section from Keller's book to me. After hearing it, I thought - I am going to post this section on my blog. Here it is.

THE WOUNDS WE CARRY (from Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, pp. 59 ff.)

There are many reasons that we cannot see our self-centeredness. One of the main factors that hides it from us is our own history of mistreatment... All of these experiences can make it extremely difficult to trust the other sex, while at the same time filling you with dep doubts about your own judgment and character. "Woundedness" is compounded self-doubt and guilt, resentment and disillusionment...

[Woundedness] can prevent us from doing the normal, day-to-day work of repentance and forgiveness and extending the grace that is so crucial to make progress in our marriages. The reason is that woundedness makes us self-absorbed.

This is not hard to see in others, of course. When you begin to talk to wounded people, it is not long before they begin talking about themselves. They're so engrossed in their own pain and problems that they don't realize what they look like to others. They are no sensitive to the needs to others. They don't pick up the cues of those who are hurting, or, if they do, they only do so in a self-involved way. That is, they do so with a view of helping to "rescue" them in order to feel better about themselves. They get involved with others in an obsessive and controlling way because they are actually meeting their own needs, though they deceive themselves about this. We are always, always the last to see our self-absorption. Our hurts and wounds can make our self-centeredness even more intractable. When you point out selfish behavior to a wounded person, he or she will say, "Well, maybe so, but you don't understand what it is like." The wounds justify the behavior.

There are two ways to diagnose and treat this condition. In our culture, there is still a widespread assumption of basic human goodness. If people are self-absorbed and messed up, it is argued, it is only because they lack healthy self-esteem. So what we should do is tell them to be good to themselves, to live for themselves, not for others. In this view of things, we give wounded people almost nothing but support, encouraging them to stop letting others run their lives, urging them to find out what their dreams are and take steps to fulfill them. That, we think, is the way to healing. But this approach assumes that self-centeredness isn't natural, that it is only the product of some kind of mistreatment. That is a very popular understanding of human nature, but it is worth observing that it is an article of faith - a religious belief, as it were. No major world religion teaches that, yet this is the popular view of many people in the West.

But this view of things simply doesn't work. A marriage relationship unavoidably entails self-denial, even in the most mundane day-to-day living. It is impossible to have a smooth-running relationship with even one person, let along two, always feeling that his or her desires should have preeminence because of all he ir she has been through in life.

The Christian approach begins with a different analysis of the situation. We believe that, as badly wounded as persons may be, the resulting self-absorption of the human heart was not caused by mistreatment. It was only magnified and shaped by it. Their mistreatment poured gasoline on the fire, and the flame and smoke now choke them, but their self-centeredness already existed prior to their woundedness. Therefore, if you do nothing but urge people to "look out for number one," you will be setting them up for future failure in any relationship, especially marriage. This is not to say that wounded people do not need great gentleness, tender treatment, affirmation, and patience. It is just that this is not the whole story. Both people crippled by inferiority feelings and those who have superiority complexes are centered on themselves, obsessed with how they look and how they are being perceived and treated. It would be easy to help someone out of an inferiority complex into a superiority complex and leave them no better furnished to live life well."